Spend Yourself

I’ve heard it said that if you want to find out what is really important to a person, take a look at their checkbook.  How do they spend their money?  This is certainly an indicator.  Are you a shop ’til you drop sort of person?  Or do your regular expeditures reflect an attitude of love toward God and your neighbor?

Surrendering to God, however, requires more that writing checks to the church and other worthy causes.  Financial generosity may be your gift, but we are asked to be generous with our time and talents as well.  Read through this verse from the book of Romans:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12;1

We are to spend not only our money, but our very selves on God.  This is an acceptable way to worship Him — not with some money dropped in the collection plate, not just for one day a week, but every day, with everything we have and are. Wow!  That’s a difficult commitment to make.  I can hear your thoughts (along with mine) clicking …. uh… but what about my job?  My husband?  The kids?  All of my daily chores?  How do I even begin to spend my life on God?

The answer of course is in the Bible:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

As you go about your daily activities, remember God.  Give thanks for your job, your children, your husband and friends, because God has given them to you.  Serve them sacrificially as if you were serving Christ.  Pray as you go about your day.  Ask for help.  Ask for guidance.  Show the love of Jesus to others.  Regard your work as a holy vocation, given to you by God.  Martin Luther once said:

” “God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid.”

So when it comes to the things of God, don’t just give your money.  Spend yourself.  Surrender.

Open Hands

Earlier this month I reviewed Laura Story’s book I Give Up (  I Give Up by Laura Story–Book Review ).  Laura is a musician and songwriter, and she mentioned a song she wrote about her surrender to God.  It’s called Open Hands and I think you’ll find it moving.

Laura Story – Open Hands (Lyric Video) ft. Mac Powell – YouTube

For another song by Laura Story see:



The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald G. May –Book Review

What is the dark night of the soul?  According to psychiatrist and spiritual counselor Gerald May it is not necessarily a time of great suffering, and it isn’t synonymous with depression.  The dark night is instead, a time of transisition and liberation from our attachments — a term that might be better understood as addictions, or idols.  The idea of darkness refers to things seeming uclear or obscured.  The spiritual disciplines that have formerly comforted us and been comfortable to us, lack meaning.  We may find that our spiritual life has become dry or unsatisfying.  However, instead of longing to have our old feelings back, we yearn for something different, something more.

Drawing heavily upon the writings of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, May discusses the differences between meditation and contemplation, and the signs that one is experiencing a dark night.  Both John and Teresa emphasize that the deepest constants of the spiritual life are the same for everyone.  It’s always a process of letting go  attachments, growing freedom to love God and others, and self-knowledge or awareness of our true identity in God.  In relating to this month’s theme, you could say it is surrendering more and more to God. As we mature, we move from self determination to a willingness to be led.

Dark night times come and go.  This is not a once in a lifetime experience.  It may be dramatic, but more often it is quiet and inner.  Gradually hope dawns, things become clearer.  In the midst of feeling things are going terribly wrong, we see that something is going just right.  God is at work, transforming and changing us.

I agreed with most of what the author had to say.  However, at the end of the book he seems to question God’s omnipotence:

“An alternative vision, one that I find repeatedly in contemplative literature, is that instead of God being unloving or arbitrary, God may not be so omnipotent.”

I believe that God is omnipotent (the bible clearly says this) and His plans are good.  However, we often are simply unable to fully understand His purposes or see how they are working out. We must simply trust and surrender.

VERDICT:  4 STARS.  If you’re wondering about the dark night of the soul, this book is clear and will certainly help you understand the concept and distinguish it from depression.

For more on the dark night of the soul see:

Flee to the Scripture– A Quote by R.C. Sproul



Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren–Book Review

It may be dangerous for you to read this book.In it Kay Warren (wife of Pastor Rick Warren) tells the story of her conviction that God was calling her to advocate for people around the world affected by HIV-AIDS.  She found herself “deeply disturbed” and “gloriously ruined” as she was challenged to face her own self-centeredness and unfair opinions of others.

Here are some things Kay learned that should disturb anyone living in our country:

“….if you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 percent of the people in this world!  If you have any money in the bank and some in your wallet and some spare change in a dish somewhere, you are among the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy; …. If you can attend worship services without the fear of harrassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than three billion people n the world.”

I was especially convicted by her chapter on “The Kingdom of Me.” Kay describes her reluctance to engage with the problem of HIV.  You will find the sorts of excuses we all make:

  • The problem is just too big
  • I have enough to do
  • The people I will need to associate with may damage my reputation
  • I may have to change

The ugly reality is what stands most in the way of our surrender to God’s plan for us, is simple:  we care more about ourselves than we do about the suffering of others.

Each chapter with a prayer of surrender and some questions to ponder alone or with a reading partner or small group.  There are further resources and more questions for each chapter at the end of the book.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This would be a great read for a small group study.

I Give Up by Laura Story–Book Review

Laura Story knows about surrendering to God.  Not long after they were married, her husband required surgery for a brain tumor, which left him alive, but with disabilities.  After experiencing the pain of infertility, she eventually gave birth to four children, including a pair of twins.  Her youngest son was born with a cleft palate.  Life took lots of twists and turns she didn’t expect.  Most of us may not have the same surprises, but we are sure to have some, and Laura’s book gives good advice on how to handle them.

She addresses a number of good questions including:

  • To whom do I surrender?
  • How do I surrender?
  • What happens when I surrender?

At the end of each chapter is a “white flag prayer” readers can use to speak to God about their own need to let go.

Laura’s story is full of important spiritual insights.  Here are just a few that struck me:

  • Receiving one thing new always requires letting go of something else
  • Surrender ia an ongoing process … a committment to a life style
  • When we surrender control of our lives to God, we’re choosing belief over doubt, belief over fear, belief over worry, confusion and despair
  • Marriage (and other close relationships) are great schools for practicing surrender
  • Surrender = worship

If you read her book, you can make a list of your own.

If you’re interested in music, you may know that Laura is also a talented songwriter and plays the bass.  Probably her most well known is the song, “Blessings.”  If you would like to listen to it, follow the link below:


Which Will Prosper?

Continuing my lectio divina study of Ecclesiastes, these verses stood out for me in Chapter 11:

“In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not withhold yor hand, for you do not know what will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”  Ecclesiastes 11:6

In other words, we don’t know how some situation or decision will turn out.  This reminds me an ancient parable:

“A farmer’s horse, his most valuable possesion runs away.  The neighbors, hearing about this, visit his house, saying ‘What bad luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’


A few days later, the horse returns, bringing a herd of wild horses with him.  The neighbors again visit, saying ‘What good luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’


The farmer’s son breaks his leg while attempting to tame the wild horses.  He becomes quite ill with an infection.  The neighbors say ‘What bad luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’


At the same time, a war is going on.  The local warlord comes to the farmer’s house to conscript his son.  When he finds him feverish, delerious and useless, he leaves him there.  The neighbors once again say, ‘What good luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.'”

What looks bad today may work out for the best — what looks wonderful can have unexpected and unfortunate consequences.  We’ve all experienced this.  We lose a job, and end up in a new position we like so much more.  We move to a new house in a beautiful subdivision, only to realize how much we miss our old neighborhood and friends.  Our favorite candidate wins the election, then reneges on all those promises he made.  We get a deadly disease — which causes us to grow closer to God.  You get the idea.

The solution?  Make the best decision you can and then surrender it to God. Detach yourself from expectations. Trust that He’s working it all out for good.  The writer of Ecclesiastes goes on to say:

“… you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”  Ecclesiastes 11:5b

So surrender, and leave the results to God.  It’s the way to peace.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

Another Blast from the Past

The Good Old Days?

Ecclesiastes Chapter 3–What Stands Out




Whose Slave Are You?

Many people don’t like the idea of being a slave or a servant, even if God is their master.  They may not say it, but they have their own agenda.  God is okay if He stays in His own space — preferably Sunday mornings. They will serve Him one day a week, but the rest of the time they’re on our own.  Face it, we all behave this way sometimes.  However, the bible tells us that God demands our full surrender:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”  Matt. 6:24a

My husband and I recently watched a film called The Irishman.  It is the true story of Frank Sheeran, who became a hit man for the mob.  He became so inured to this life, that by the end, he killed a man who had been his good friend (Jimmy Hoffa).  When he was old and in a nursing home, he confessed to a priest, who asked him how he felt about the crimes he had committed.  “I don’t feel anything,”  he said.  His heart had become hard.  He was a slave, not to God, but to sin.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” Romans 6:6

When we surrender our lives to God, we free ourselves from a slavery that leads only to death.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans :22-23

So chose which course you want to take — the one that leads to death, or the one that promises life?  Whose slave do you want to be?


Stay Calm

I just finished chapter 10 in my lectio divina reading of Ecclesiastes, and here’s what stands out for me:

“…calmness will lay great offenses to rest.”  Ecclesiastes 1o:4b

Calmness is a rare quality in our world today.  We not only want to say what we think, we want to say it NOW! Even worse, we want to put it out there for the world to see– on Facebook or Twitter, or whatever other social media option is readily available to us.  The upshot is many people are offended with one another.  I know so many relatives and friends who have “blocked” one another due to unpleasant social media exchanges that are ill advised, and often trivial. Do we really have to get nasty and worked up about our allegiance to a sports team?  Or even a political party or candidate?  Is it necessary to demonize everyone who disagrees with us?  Even when we are right about an issue, demeaning our opponents will never bring them around to our way of thinking.

So, stay calm.  That means, think before you speak (or text). Use your manners.  Respect others.  You know, the rules they taught us in elementary school?  The Bible teaches them too.  Think about these other verses:

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself, it tends only to evil.”  Psalm 37:8


“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”  Proverbs 15:18


“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

I read once that nuturing anger is like drinking poison in the hopes that the person who upset you will die.  Don’t poison yourself.  Quell those angry words.  Say a prayer– remember you are a sinner, too!  Surrender those feelings to God and allow Jesus to calm the storm.  Ask yourself, do I want to escalate this argument?  Spoil this relationship? Would I want Jesus to hear these words or read this text?  It’s probably not worth it.  So just stay calm.  You’ll be glad you did.

For more on anger see these posts:


What Should I Do When I am Angry?

Are You Angry?



Shades of Light by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

If you enjoyed Garlough’s Sensible Shoes series, you’ll love this book also.  It centers around Wren Crawford, a young woman suffering from anxiety, depression and panic attacks.  She lives in Kingsbury, about ten years after the events of Sensible Shoes.  You will once again meet Hannah, Mara, and Charissa and get some updates on their lives.  You will also learn the back story of their spiritual director, Katherine, who turns out to be Wren’s Aunt Kit.

If you or a loved one has suffered from mental illness, you will be able to emphasize with Wren and her family.  This is another story about surrendering to God — surrendering when life spirals out of control, or when we feel helpless to change the suffering and anguish experienced by someone else’s pain. How do we come alongside, yet still establish boundaries?  It’s also about unanswered questions and how to go forward in our lives when difficult circumstances lack closure.

Wren’s story is interwoven with excerpts from the letters, art and life of the artist, Vincent Van Gogh, as well as the biblical concept of Jesus as “the man of sorrows.”  It introduces the spiritual practice of visio divina –inviting God to speak to our heart as we contemplate an image.

I was disappointed that this book did not include any specific spiritual exercises or a study guide at the end.  There is a list of recommended resources with organizations that can help with mental illness as well as books on suicide, grief, the art of Vincent van Gogh and spiritual formation.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This book spoke to me on so may levels.  I highly recommend it.

If you haven’t read the other books by Sharon Garlough Brown see these reviews:

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

A Book about Surrender

An Extra Mile by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review




Can You Do This?

“Use thy utmost endeavor to attain such a disposition of spirit that thou mayest become one with Me, and thy will may become so entirely conformed to My all-perfect will, that not only shalt thou never desire that which is evil, but not even that which is good, if it not be according to My will;  so that whatsoever shall befall thee in this earthly life, from whatsoever quarter it may come, whether in things temporal or things spiritual, nothing shall ever disturb thy peace, or trouble thy quietness of spirit;  but thou shalt be established in a firm belief that I, thine omnipotent God, love thee with a dearer love and take of thee more watchful care than thou canst for thyself.”

St. Catharine of Siena

For more about doing God’s Wll see:

Fanning the Flame #6–Seeking God’s Will

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

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